I have sworn off patronizing my local grocery store. Yup. Not goin anymore. I would rather drive 20 miles to the other nearest grocery store than walk into this one in my small town. I refuse to pay 67 cents for ONE lime, $2.50 for ONE avocado, and $3.99 for a pint of raspberry berries when the, dare I admit it, WAL-MART 20 miles away sells them for 22 cents, 88 cents, and $2.48, respectively. I plan to write a very strongly worded email. Until then, it's Wally World, which I also hate because their cuts of meat are a red-dye mess... But I digress.
Before I swore off Brookshire's (Yes, that's the name of this wallet-stealer of a grocery chain), I found some Cippolini onions (also expensive, but I've never worked with them before, so I made an exception). When I thought of pairing the onions with this week's Secret Ingredient, Pecans, I came up with a salad and a vinaigrette. Feel free to add bacon! A tasty afterthought I had...
DINNER SALAD WITH SWEET ONION PECAN VINAIGRETTE
8-10 cippolini onions (or pearl onions)
1 large clove garlic, unpeeled!
1 tbsp thyme
salt and pepper
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pecan pieces
Place the onions and garlic on a baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
In your food processor or blender, blend onions (peeled) and garlic, peeled. Process until blended. Add thyme and olive oil from the baking sheet, along with the vinegar. Process again. Now, in a slow steady stream, add olive oil. Then the pecans. Make sure everything in well blended.
Note: This tasted great on a bed of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and goat cheese!
Last month, I went on a family vacation, and brought back some wonderful, local fresh shrimp. I used some of that shrimp this week for my main dish, a po-boy. For those who aren’t familiar with them, po-boys are a traditional New Orleans sub sandwich. There are several variations of the po-boy, and I decided to keep mine simple. My sandwich uses hoagie rolls, cornmeal fried shrimp, shredded lettuce, and remoulade sauce. It’s perfect for a sandwich night meal served with a side of potato chips and an ice cold beer. Enjoy!
SHRIMP PO-BOYS WITH REMOULADE
1-2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut in half cross-wise (depends on how many people you’re feeding or how much shrimp you want to pile into your sandwich)
Shredded green leaf lettuce
Hoagie rolls, cut in half, but not all the way through
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped green onion
Zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
Make the remoulade by mixing together all ingredients; set aside. It’s best if it has an hour or more to sit and let the flavors blend, so you could make it earlier in the day, and put it in the fridge in a sealed container.
Heat a ½-inch of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, peel and devein your shrimp and cut them in half. Get 2 bowls and put milk in one and cornmeal mixed with Cajun seasoning in the other. Salt and pepper the shrimp, then put them in the milk, then into the cornmeal and coat them well. The oil should be ready if you started before you peeled the shrimp, if you need to test the oil, splash a drop of water into it; if it hisses and spits, then the oil is hot enough. Fry the shrimp for 1-2 minutes per side, until golden (they won’t take long to cook through). Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and sprinkle with salt immediately when they come out of the oil.
To make your po-boy, pile some shredded lettuce in the roll, top with several dollops of remoulade, then pile some shrimp on top.
So all week, I've had my mind on Mexican food, with the cornmeal and all... And I considered doing some sort of sweet tamale, but figured the tamale would be too bulky. Here's my solution! Enjoy...
CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY CORN CREPES WITH VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal (I used corn flour - corn meal, but more finely ground)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cups whole milk
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus additional for brushing skillet
1 tbsp honey
1 pint raspberries
1/2 bar of dark chocolate
1 can coconut milk, refrigerated
In a large bowl, whisk crepe ingredients briskly until well blended. Let sit about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, warm raspberries and honey in a small saucepan or skillet, mashing them. You can choose to strain them, but I don't. They add bulk. And they're good for you!
After they're warmed and saucy, transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate. Break chocolate into smaller pieces and warm on medium heat. Set aside.
With a mixer, blend 1 tbsp honey and cream of coconut milk only until thickened.
Spoon raspberries and coconut cream onto a crepe. Fold as pictured, drizzle with chocolate and serve with ice cream...
Once again, I went very Southern with this recipe for cornmeal week. I decided to make a lemon chess pie with a cornmeal pie crust. Chess pie is a Southern pie that’s usually made with eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, and sometimes buttermilk; there are also lemon and chocolate variations of chess pie. The pie recipe is slightly adapted from one I found on the King Arthur flour website. I put a little less sugar in it and added some lemon zest to really bump up the lemon flavor in the pie. The crust is my own. There are cornmeal pie crusts out there, but I added some extras to it to make it special. The result was spectacular; the pie is very lemony and the bourbon in the pie crust gives a slight hint of flavor to the whole thing which is just fantastic. If you are a lemon pie lover, then make one of these this weekend.
LEMON CHESS PIE WITH LEMON-BOURBON CORNMEAL CRUST
1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal (I used white, use what you have)
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1-2 tablespoons bourbon
6 tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons
1 ½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
To make the crust, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. If you have a stand mixer, you can also use that, just put the flour mixture in the bowl, add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Using a fork, beat the egg and bourbon in a small bowl, then pour into the flour mixture and mix until dough forms. Press the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour. After the dough has chilled, roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface, and press into a 9-inch pie plate.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. To make the pie, simply whisk together all of the pie ingredients until well blended, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. Bake the pie on 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until it is set in the center. If the crust is getting too brown, then shield the edges with a pie shield or aluminum foil while baking. Cool the pie and chill before serving.
Picture it: Jinotega, 2008. A small rural coffee town in northern Nicaragua. I was traversing the country, doing a little exploring, and I got hungry. Typical Nicaraguan food can be somewhat plain, but here on the dirty cobbled street near the town square, a tiny little walk-in "restaurant", if you could call it that, offered up Salvadoranean fare. El Salvador, as of late, has had a crime problem, but their pupusas are great! So this hole-in-the-wall eatery had two plastic tables and a few chairs, and I sat down to peruse the menu hand-written on the wall... Pupusas, what are those? I decided to get adventurous.
The owner, the cook and the waitress - all the same person - brought me my dish. Three doughy discs smiled up at me; beans, cheese... and loaded on top, a vinegared mix of cabbage, onions and carrots. A dollop of sour cream and hot sauce, and I was in business! Holy goodness, I HAD to find a way to make these!
PUPUSAS AND CURTIDO
4 cups masa harina (corn meal for tamales)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 cups water or chicken broth
refried or mashed beans
about 5 medium to large tomatillos, sliced thinly
Heat beans... Saute tomatillos in a little olive oil and mash with a fork when softened. Salt to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, gradually stir water into flours until dough forms a ball. Divide the dough into about 24 pieces. (I usually cut the ball of dough in half, in half again, and then into smaller portions. Roll each section into a ball and flatten on your counter. (It's helpful to lay down a piece of plastic wrap first.) Put a spoonful of beans or tomatillos and cheese onto one side of each pupusa, fold over and form into a disc.
Heat a heavy, weide-bottomed skillet until hot. Brush pupusas with oil and cook about 5 mins on each side until golden brown.
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 small carrots, grated
2 cups vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
Dump every thing into a wide-bottomed container, or a large gallon jar. Make sure everything is immersed in the liquid. Set aside for 6 hours. If there isn't enough liquid, add more portions of vinegar and water.
It really is fun doing this Secret Ingredient Cook-Off with a friend. So many different ideas! Karly thought of Southern cooking when confronted with Cornmeal Week, and I automatically went for Mexican!
I'll give you a little heads-up: all three of my dishes this week are Hispanic-inspired! This one, my main dish, is a casserole. Simple enough, and very tasty!
Nopales (pronounced noh-pahl-ess) are cut strips of cactus leaf, and they are used often in Mexican cooking. I chose a preserved kind that was bottled with a vinegar/serrano pepper juice, but many will buy the cactus "paddles", cut off the spines, and cook them...
Regarding the Cornmeal, I thought it would make an awesome crust for a Mexican dish. I played this by ear because I couldn't find a crust recipe that made me happy. This one was a success, and yet another completely original idea straight from my brain to the dinner table!
CHICKEN & NOPALES CASSEROLE WITH CORNMEAL CRUST
1 1/2 cups cornmeal (I used corn flour for a finer texture)
1 2/3 cups flour (I used organic all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup chicken broth (or water)
Mix dry ingredients. Add egg, butter and broth. Mix well. You might even have to get your hands in there. Transfer to baking dish and mash onto bottom and up onto sides. (I had a little extra left over, so I put the extra on top...) Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, cut into small chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup preserved nopales
1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, diced
1 can cut tomatoes, drained
2 breasts of chicken, cooked
2 tbsp diced cilantro
1/2 can black refried beans (I mashed my own black beans)
3-4 oz Mexican Quesadilla cheese, grated (you can substitute Monterrey Jack)
Saute onion and pepper in olive oil until onion is translucent; add everything else except beans and cheese, and cook at med-high heat about 5-10 mins. Then cook out or drain liquid.
First line the crust with a layer of the refried beans. Next, add the cooked mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Cook at 350 for another 10 minutes. I also sprinkled mine with pumpkin seeds. Buen Provecho!
Cornmeal week is bringing out the Southern cook in me, so be on the lookout for different versions of Southern classics this week.
One of the most classic Southern staples is cornbread. You can make it in an iron skillet and slice it, or you can bake it in a muffin tin for corn muffins. I decided to make corn muffins, but knew that I didn’t want to just do plain ones.
I thought of a fantastic loaf of artisanal bread I bought once from my local farmer’s market that had roasted red peppers in it, and decided to add roasted bell pepper to my corn muffins. I also decided to add a little fresh goat cheese as well, because I thought it would go nicely with the bell pepper. I also played around with the ingredients in a typical corn muffin.
Instead of shortening, I added some melted butter; instead of buttermilk or sour cream, I used plain Greek yogurt and a splash of milk; instead of sugar, I used honey. Overall, I was happy with the way they turned out. It’s not a sweet cornbread/corn muffin recipe, so if you prefer your corn muffins on the sweet side, you may want to add more honey. Serve them warm and slathered with butter. Enjoy!
CORN MUFFINS WITH ROASTED BELL PEPPERS AND GOAT CHEESE
1 cup corn meal (I used white, you can use yellow as well)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 Tablespoons honey
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup (8 oz) plain Greek yogurt
Splash of milk
1 bell pepper, any color, roasted and cut into a large dice
2 oz. plain goat cheese, crumbled
First, roast your bell pepper by either charring it over the flames of a gas burner, or rubbing it with olive oil and putting it on a cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven and turning occasionally until blackened. Once the pepper is blackened, put it in a Ziploc bag and seal it, so that the pepper can cool and steam. Once the pepper is cool, remove the skin and seeds (the skin will rub right off) and cut into a large dice; set aside.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, honey, egg, yogurt, and milk, and stir until well combined. Stir in the pepper and goat cheese. Spoon the batter into a greased muffin tin, filling the cups about 2/3 of the way. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
I'm really starting to surprise myself. I really can't tell you where this idea came from, but the result was great! The whole family was impressed.
This morning, we had bacon, eggs, and waffles with real maple syrup. The maple syrup somehow stayed in my mind as I scanned the liquor cabinet, and my eyes settled on the Wild Turkey Honey American. Honey whiskey and maple syrup. What would go well with that? Chicken. A marinade. Or a basting liquid!
So after grilling the basted chicken, I used a little of the remainder to flavor a dipping sauce. Great for an appetizer! (You could also do a tasty fried chicken version!)
NOTE: You may have some of the reduction left. This is really tasty on a biscuit!
MAPLE & WHISKEY-GRILLED CHICKEN WITH CREAMY BACON DIPPING SAUCE
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup whiskey (I used Wild Turkey Honey American)
3 pieces bacon, fried
8 chicken tenderloins
2 tbsp of maple/whiskey reduction
bacon from the cooked reduction
3-4 tbsp plain yogurt
2-3 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp dijon mustard
Bring whiskey to a boil. Add syrup and bacon, and boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let cool slightly (You don't want the heat of the basting reduction to "cook" the chicken.).
While the reduction cools, spoon off the bacon and about 2 tbsp of the reduction into a bowl. Combine cream cheese, yogurt and mustard in the same bowl. Heat slightly so that the mixture blends completely. Set aside for dipping.
Now slide tenderloins onto skewers and use the cooled reduction to baste them. Grill 5-8 minutes; baste once or twice as they cook.
Plate and eat!!
The idea for this dessert came from a martini. Not too long ago, one of the guys at my local liquor store (who is always spot on with his recommendations for wine and cocktail ideas) recommended a new vanilla vodka to me and sug-gested I make a martini with it using both Baileys and Kahlua. The martini is
awesome, it’s a great after dinner drink; but the idea for the crème brulee didn’t come so easily for me.
At first, I planned to do liqueur infused truffles for my dessert for the week; but I wasn’t really happy with the idea. I kept thinking of that martini and wondering if there was some way I could turn that into a dessert, and all of a sudden it hit me: crème brulee. I love crème brulee, and this seemed like a perfect idea. Incidentally, the martini is almost a mudslide, except there’s no cream in it or chocolate syrup (which is sometimes in a mudslide). So, that’s how the Mudslide Crème Brulee idea was born. And it’s completely awesome too! Try it tonight!!
MUDSLIDE CRÈME BRULEE
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 Tablespoons vanilla vodka (I used Cupcake Vineyards Frosting Vodka)
2 Tablespoons Kahlua
2 Tablespoons Baileys
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup turbinado sugar, more as needed (I used Sugar in the Raw)
Combine the milk, vodka, Kahlua, and Baileys in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until just about to boil, about 4 minutes. Turn off heat, and let sit for 15 minutes; this will help infuse the liqueur flavors into the milk. After the 15 minutes, preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and set a medium saucepan of water on to boil (once it starts to boil, turn down the heat and keep it at a simmer). Put your saucepan of milk back onto medium high heat and bring to a simmer; once the milk mixture simmers, take it off of the heat.
In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, pinch of salt, and sugar together. Now, you’ll need to blend your egg yolks with the hot milk mixture. You do this so that you don’t get cooked egg in your crème brulee, which no one wants. To temper it, drizzle a small amount of the hot milk mixture into the
egg yolks, while constantly whisking. After a minute or so, very, very slowly drizzle in the remaining milk mixture into the egg yolks, while constantly whisking. Once it’s all incorporated, skim off any foam or bubbles with a spatula and let it cool slightly for about 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the cream.
Pour the mixture into 4 small ramekins (about 4-5 inches across), filling almost to the top. Set the ramekins into a baking dish and then very carefully (you don’t want any water to splash into the custard) pour the simmering water into the baking dish until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, then bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, until custards are firm at the edges, but not completely set in the center. Take the ramekins out of the water and put on a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, you can proceed with the recipe, or refrigerate until you’re ready to finish the crème brulee; if you refrigerate them, put a small layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard, so that a skin doesn’t form on top.
When ready to finish the crème brulee, gently blot the surface of them to remove any condensation, sift a fine, even layer of turbinado sugar over the top. Torch the sugar with a baking torch until lightly browned, then sift another layer over that and torch again; repeat one more time. If you don’t have a crème brulee torch, then preheat your broiler and put the custards under the broiler to brown the sugar, add another layer, then brown again under the broiler, and repeat one more time.
NOTE: Normally, in crème brulee, I use a vanilla bean, but I was out of them, and had a ton of vanilla extract. I think the normal substitution is one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract for one vanilla bean. I just used a little extra extract in my crème brulee. If you use a vanilla bean, then cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, and put in the milk mixture with the liqueurs. You can strain out the vanilla bean if you want after the milk mixture has set for 15 minutes by pouring through a sieve, or you can leave it in.
The inspiration for this recipe also came from the book, Cooking with Booze. There was a recipe for a pepper vodka hummus, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of using vodka in hummus. I decided to come up with my own version.
I love roasted red bell pepper hummus and happened to have some red bell peppers on hand, so I made a red bell pepper version; instead of the lemon juice that traditionally goes in hummus, I used Absolut Citron vodka. It turned out good, there’s a very subtle vodka taste to it, which enhances the overall flavor. Make some this weekend!!
ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS WITH CITRUS VODKA
2 roasted red bell peppers
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tahini
¼ cup Abolut Citron vodka
1/8 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish
First, you’ll need to roast your bell peppers. My favorite way is to roast them over the flames of the gas burners on my stove. I just put them on the flames, turn them with tongs as they char, and when they’re all good and charred, put them in a Ziploc bag and seal it immediately so that they can steam and cool.
If you don’t have a gas stove, you can roast them in the oven…just cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, rub the peppers with olive oil, and roast them at 450 or 475 degrees (or try the broiler, but watch them carefully), turning occasionally, until blackened; when they come out the oven, pop them in the Ziploc bag.
Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin, remove the seeds, and cut them into large chunks. Put the peppers, chick peas, garlic, tahini, and vodka in a food processor and pulse until well combined.
With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and let combine; season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley and another drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita chips.
"Food is never just food. It's also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, & who we want to be." -- Molly Wizenberg